I went to university for the second time, but not as a student…

ID: I’m at my desk. Zoom background of a soft brown with the cover of Nothing Without Us. I’m wearing my silver and black headphones and a white tee that says, “I think so, Brain..."
All mic’d up and ready to Zoom!

So, I never went to university. Life’s circumstances were such that I needed to work full-time at age 19 in order to be able to survive on my own. But it was fine because I had a diploma in Electrotechnology and Industrial Automation at the C.E.G.E.P. level in Québec, so this meant I could work at a cool place and write about airplane simulators. My fave memory of that job was once when the simulator froze, so we all had to leave the cockpit and go out for coffee. Not something I suspect is typically done in real life at 30, 000 feet above ground. (We just had to go down a short ladder to the warehouse floor, so all was well.)

I’ve often felt insecure that I don’t have a degree, but my work experience made up for it, and when I entered the publishing realm in 2016, I found myself surrounded by highly-educated people. But, they were lovely and not snobs. At least the people I interacted with had been great.

When Nothing Without Us was published and became the physical manifestation of a curiosity I had—I would love to have a collection of stories where all the authors are disabled, but I’m not sure how to do it—it was a pretty exciting time. Seeing the authors so thrilled to be part of the anthology and forming friendships and a community of their own had been an unexpected delight.

But when Derek Newman-Stille announced to Talia and me in late 2019 that the anthology would be part of a syllabus in their disabilities studies course, it felt like a dream come true. I said something like, “I’ve never been to uni, but a book with my name on it is going!”

Another shock had been Derek’s invitation to have Talia and I speak to their students as guest lecturers. Gulp. But we did, and it was fun.

I had no idea the anthology would be taught a second time, in this winter 2021 semester, and we would be invited to speak to the students again. But it happened. On March 4, Talia and I zoomed ourselves into the online class, and answered many incredible questions from the students. And time flew by. We even stayed on an hour and twenty minutes more than planned because the conversations had been so engaging.

Any insecurities I feel about “not being as educated” are mine alone to conquer. Because in reality, there are many paths to an education. Also, I love learning. I just have to do it in a way that fits how my brain brains.

And it felt wonderful to contribute to the conversations about the experiences Talia and I had gone through with co-editing an anthology for the first time: how we chose stories, our feelings about disability representation in fiction, and our opinions about how autistic folks are represented in stories as well. Students even wanted to know how we felt during this pandemic, and that was a meaty discussion as well.

In short: it was pretty darned awesome. I felt honoured to participate.

Many, many thanks to Derek and their wonderful students. You folks were the highlight of my week.

Thanks also to Talia because there would not have been an anthology without her. I would have dived into The Overwhelm™ as a lone editor-in-chief. So, muchly appreciated, Brain. Narf!

In September this year, we’ll be taking submissions for Nothing Without Us, Too. The adventure continues! (If you’re interested in picking up the first anthology, you can find it here or at Renaissance!)

Thanks, once again, to all of our readers! Because of your support, this wee book is provoking healthy conversations!

There are just not enough cupcakes to show my appreciation. Cheers!

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to be wise and think of others as we battle COVID-19!

Cait is also the author of humorous space opera novels Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers, and she is the co-editor of the Prix Aurora Award nominated anthology Nothing Without Us. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. Her latest new adventure is hosting the In the ’Cosm podcast, which is really an excuse to gush over authors she admires.

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